The Psychedelic Furs perform at The Birchmere on Oct. 4, 2017. (Photo by Chester Simpson)
Richard Butler was a joy to behold.
With boundless energy, the frontman of The Psychedelic Furs swept the audience up in a dance for an 18-song set on the band’s Singles Tour on Wednesday at The Birchmere. He so relished the opportunity to perform live that he couldn’t stop beaming.
Richard and The Furs launched the show with 1981’s “Dumb Waiters,” a powerful single known for being a live rager. For anyone not completely sucked into the show immediately, The Psychedelic Furs hit perennial favorite “Pretty in Pink” a few songs later, absolutely ensuring they have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.
Pacing the stage from side to side, Richard sounded amazing as he sang. His voice punched clear above the instruments of the band, whether falling to a hush during “Pretty in Pink” or rising to a cry in “Love My Way,” which follows soon after! Tim Butler, brother to Richard and only other original band member alongside him, stood stoically to stage left, mouthing along to the words of songs like “Love My Way” and generally looking and sounding cool.
The neo-psychedelic quintet has an addictive signature sound that immediately lulled us into a happy state while compelling us to dance in time to the music. From his microphone, Richard swayed and reached out to the crowd during “Ghost in You,” for example, and everyone in the room loyally swayed and reached back. Richard’s distinctive, raspy voice remains a major part of the appeal of The Furs — not only does it fit snuggly with the band’s swirling melodies and softy distorted notes but it commands a weathered authority. It’s the gentle, knowing voice of a man who has seen it all and come to share a cautionary message or two.
The crowded house at The Birchmere ate it up as the hits kept coming — “All That Money Wants” from the 1998 greatest hits compilation, All of This and Nothing; “Heartbreak Beat” from 1987’s Midnight to Midnight; and “Heaven” from 1984’s Mirror Moves. The encore presented early single “Sister Europe,” the 1980 post-punk torch song that first put The Psychedelic Furs on the map way back in 1980.
The Psychedelic Furs continue The Singles Tour tomorrow, Oct. 10, in Philadelphia and press forward until wrapping up in Brooklyn on Oct. 22. The relentlessly touring Furs likely have been in your area a few times in recent years, as they polished their live show to perfection. But you really ought to see them again, even if you’ve seen them a few times already, as they are truly in fine form right now.
And if by some miracle you haven’t already seen The Psychedelic Furs, rest assured that now is the time to be at a show! Richard will make you a believer with unmatched vitality and that remarkably reassuring voice of his.
Here are some pictures of The Psychedelic Furs performing at The Birchmere on Oct. 4, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson. As an added bonus, Chester also shared some pictures he took of The Psychedelic Furs at the Bayou in DC on Monday, July 6, 1981.
The Furs in 2017
The Furs in 1981